Now! p.52-64

We last left off with the Coopers stopping for gas, despite the fact that God was taking care of the gas tank for them. The Coopers aren’t allowed to buy anything, so they totally just drove off after filling up, and the attendant is calling 911.

That’s…. not what happened from Merikay’s perspective, but that’s kind of how the text reads. I do not blame Merikay for this, I blame the editor who should have known better.

In any case, God is still taking care of the gas tank, and the family is driving around…. trying to shake the police car? I’m not really sure why they’re just driving up and down random streets when the Smoky Mountains they’ve been aiming for are right there.

Suddenly, across the radio, came the license number and description of our car and an alert that we were dangerous criminals. I couldn’t believe that they were talking about us as I heard the list of crimes we had supposedly committed.

What do you mean, “supposedly?” Let me list off what the Coopers and Merikay have done:

  1. Gone to church on Saturday (we never actually see them do this, but I’m assuming they must have held some kind of services in their cabin?)
  2. Not gone to church on Sunday
  3. Possibly stolen a tank of gas
  4. Possibly also totally not paid the gas station attendant for wiping their windows.

All of which, under the new regime, are crimes. You have broken laws, you are criminals. That is kind of how the law works.

If they are alleging you have done things you haven’t done, you need to tell us this. Otherwise I’m just kind of sitting here wondering what lies they are telling about you, because as far as I can tell, they aren’t lying.

How could it be? How could something like this happen here in the United States? This must be a dream, I thought. It can’t happen. Not now.

You’re right. It can’t. There are laws in place to protect us from such things. Although it wouldn’t surprise me if the religious right tried. But they would fail, because freedom of religion is still a thing.

Credit where credit is due: Merikay does not end this book with, “and then I woke up, and discovered it was just another end times nightmare that I’ve been having since I joined the cult. The End.”

Even though that would be a realistic ending, that sort of ending is a copout and makes the reader feel cheated. She talks enough about this being a nightmare that teenage!me wondered if that was what was coming when this was being read aloud to me in Bible class. But it’s not, so, good job Merikay.

“Listen, kids,” Mr. Cooper was talking. “Grab what you can and get out. Take off as fast as you dare, but don’t look suspicious. It’s not safe for you to be with us.”

“But…”

“Do what I said… now!”

So, question: Are the Coopers going to try and lead the cops away from Pat and Merikay, or are they just that oblivious to the fact that now would be a good time to abandon the car.

As Merikay jumps out of the car, she realizes she is holding:

  1. Bible
  2. Coat
  3. Roller bag

Those damn hair rollers! I actually kind of wish Merikay had made this a bit more of a running gag. It’s kinda funny. Kind of.

“How in the world did I get my roller bag?” I giggled nervously.

She will be tortured and imprisoned, but goddammit, she will have perfectly curled hair while she’s doing it.

You know, you could even work that in as a character flaw. Book!Merikay could be… well, a little vain. But as she learns to know God more, these things begin to seem less important. And when she finally does abandon the bag with the rollers, it’s her way of saying, “Ok God. I trust you. I trust that you have something better in mind than what I’ve been clinging to.”

That wouldn’t just give Book!Merikay more characterization, but it would make Book!God more of a character, and that’s sorely needed in…well, all end times novels, actually.

Pat, the practical brother, tells Merikay that they’d better get out of there, and they start moving.

It was a peaceful, quiet, ordinary residential city street. Little children were playing; people were washing their cars or watering their lawns. For a moment I felt safe. Everything was all right.

Then we heard the siren.

I…. want to say I like this. I like the juxtaposition of feeling safe with the sudden realization that they are not.

And yet… and yet…

[The news broadcasts] were all the same: wars, catastrophes, city wide riots, fires, happenings, sleep-ins, psychedelic dances and parties, and now the death decree.

…..

The news broadcasts were filled with wars, riots, uprisings and mob actions in the cities. Epidemics were breaking out in different parts of the country….

I thought that, like, you all had to leave the cities so dang fast because the cities were no longer safe. If the cities are all full of riots and catastrophes and shit, little children would not be out on the streets playing. Or at least, they shouldn’t. These children must have some heartless parents.

I don’t totally blame Merikay for this lack of consistency. Adventists hold the conflicting beliefs that in the last days, 2 things will happen:

  1. There will be a whole bunch of evil shit going on. Like, all evil all the time. As in the days of Noah, so shall the coming of the son of man be: every thought every single human ever had was all evil all the time.

Genesis6:5-6 (Context tells us this is talking about the Days of Noah)

5Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.…

  1. As it was in the days before the Noatian flood, so shall it be in the last days: people will be eating, drinking, getting married, you know, your usual daily life stuff. And then BAM! Jesus is here!

Matthew 24: 36No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark.…

They don’t see a conflict, and they’re the ones who brainwashed Merikay, so Merikay doesn’t see a conflict either.

Pat and Merikay run at the sound of the siren, making themselves look more suspicious, but nevermind.

We dashed up a small street between two brick buildings. It was darker there, and within the small paved space at their rear were several boxes and barrels.

Then Book!Merikay does my job for me:

“Why would there be something like this in a residential district?” I whispered.

Yes, why indeed? At the very least, they should be suspicious that this is some kind of trap.

“Listen, Merikay, will you stop trying to figure everything out and hide?”

Oh Book!Pat. I want to like you, and I see where you’re coming from… But I kind of think you should listen to your sister.

He pushed me under a box and threw a pile of dirty, odor filled rags on top of me. Hesitating a moment, he squeezed my hand. “I love you,” he whispered. “And don’t forget Romans 8:28.”

When Merikay is good, she’s good. This is a nice human moment that makes her brother look, well, human. I can feel the tension, and the emotion is very real.

What is Romans 8:28? I had to go look it up, because we don’t get told. Probably because most Adventists at Academy had this memorized at some point. Most probably still do, even if they couldn’t name the reference.

28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Oh. Of course. God put those boxes there for the children to hide in. How silly of me.

It makes sense that Pat wouldn’t quote the whole verse, I mean, what if someone heard them talking?

After waiting a while, Pat’s box moves. Or at least, I thought it was Pat’s box at first. On the re read, I think Merikay meant her own box moved.

“You okay in there?” His voice finally whispered.

I guess Pat isn’t hiding in a box like his sister?

Yes, I do need this spelled out for me.

Merikay asks if it’s safe to come out.

“Not for a while. Stay hid. The police weren’t looking for us, but we’d better wait till night.”

I seriously spent more time than necessary trying to figure out how Pat had this information. I think he’s been walking around spying on the police while his sister is safely hidden. Fair enough, I suppose.

I could hear him walking a little ways away, and then all was silent.

Wait, Merikay is in a box, but Pat isn’t? Or is he in the box, but he’s walking with it on his head because that’s totally not obvious?

I’m leaving that paragraph in, even though I figured it out, because the image of Book!Pat walking around with a box on his head thinking it’s TOTALLY NOT OBVIOUS is making me laugh.

Merikay thinks for a bit about how uncomfortable it is to be hiding in a box with dirty rags while sitting on the pavement. She compares her suffering to that which John, Paul, or Peter experience. Sure, hiding in a cramped smelly box on uncomfortable pavement is exactly what Paul and Peter (or was that Silas?) went through as they were whipped to within an inch of their lives, thrown into prison, and chained to a wall.

But you know what, okay. Fair enough. Book!Merikay is going to go through some even worse shit, so, I can forgive this.

I prayed almost constantly while in the box. Oh, if only I could know for sure that I was saved, and that I wasn’t deceiving myself.

Some of you have said I’ve been a bit hard on Merikay being worried about herself. SDA end times beliefs are kind of traumatic, after all. And they’re probably right. So, I’m not going to say too much about Merikay worrying about whether or not she’s really saved, except that I’m not 100% sure if we get any resolution to this question. (Except at the end when Jesus comes, obviously.)

What I will say about this passage is that I wish we’d been shown what Merikay is praying about. Probably whether or not she’s saved, but if I were critiquing this for teenage!Merikay, I would suggest that she have there be some dialog between her and the Lord. I’m not saying it doesn’t feel realistic as written, I am saying it could be strengthened if she were to show dialog between her and God.

That would also show why exactly Merikay wants to go to heaven. Because there’s no in text reason, really, except that she doesn’t want to go to hell. I can’t know what Teenage!Merikay would have thought, maybe she did want to go to heaven for Jesus’ sake… but I don’t see any support for that in the text.

And it kind of has the unfortunate side affect of making God look kinda like a dick.

Finally, it’s night, and Pat lifts the lid off Merikay’s box.

This struck me as something that didn’t seem at all unusual when my bible teacher was reading this out loud to the class, but now I’m kinda giving the characters the side eye. Wouldn’t it make more sense to travel during the day time? I mean, I don’t think cops stop looking for fugitives at night, and a couple of teenagers out after dark? Hmm. I dunno, I’d be pretty suspicious, especially if the city has a curfew.

Do cities still have those? More importantly, did they have them in the 1960s?

Anyway, Merikay gets up to stretch her muscles, then gets right back down on the cold hard pavement to pray. Which I almost think would be a better idea to do as you are walking away.

Under the rags that had been our protection for 5 hours, we hid the roller bag I was still clinging to.

I dunno, I think you should’ve kept it with you. Who knows when you may need a blunt object to hit someone over the head with.

In fact, that could be an in text reason for why she’s clinging to the rollers. Instead of just a running gag, it could be symbolic of the fact that she is trusting in God to protect her instead of relying on herself.

Not that I think it’s terrible as a running gag, but, you know. Just what I would say if I were critiquing this.

Pat and Merikay leave the alley, and no one has ever been suspicious of two teenagers leaving an alley at night.

Trying not to look suspicious, and yet not be seen, we hurried along the street.

Nope, too late. You just exited a dark alley at night, you already look like you just made a drug deal. Or left a “psychedelic party,” whatever that is. They had those in alleys, right?

Pat and Merikay head for “the hills” instinctively. I thought they were mountains…. you know what, I said I’d be nice, so let’s move on.

Ever time a car passed, we fell to the ground. Then we ran. I don’t know why we ran, but we did.

That’s gotta be some serious exercise, dude.

Fun fact: I have seriously heard an Adventist pastor say, in his sabbath sermon, that you should stay in shape and take up running just so you can run away from the Sunday Police during the end times.

Otherwise, you will go to prison and be brutally tortured. Ok, he didn’t say the “brutally tortured” part, but he said, “For everyone not capable of running, well, there’s prison….” The pastor let this sentence dangle, and we all knew he was thinking, “and brutal torture.”

Merikay burns out quickly at this fast pace. I almost think it would be better to walk, at that point, because even though it’s slower, you’d be able to cover more ground than if you burn yourself out  by running too fast.

But I can’t quite blame Teenage!Merikay for not thinking this, because fact is, I probably wouldn’t have either.

Pat encourages her to keep going. His way of doing it isn’t something *I* would find particularly encouraging, but not everybody takes encouragement the way I do, so we’ll let that pass. And really, Book!Pat is probably kind of desperate at this point to save his sister’s life, even if he can’t save his.

After getting down to hide from a car, Merikay feels she can’t get back up.

So this is what it feels like to be a criminal, I thought. Now I know how it feels to be hunted.

Nevermind.

Pat encourages Merikay to get up, and pulls her along, telling her that “now” is a good time.

That’s it. Everything was “now.” Now we had to run; now we had to fall; now we had to hide. Why couldn’t it happen next year, or the next? Why did everything have to happen now? Was I ready for Christ to come? Was I read? Now?

If all this is only delayed by 1 or 2 years, you’re still going to experience it, and it’s still going to suck.

Set that aside. That isn’t important, and I can understand why someone would be thinking it in the heat of the moment. Book!Merikay is exhausted and not thinking straight. I shouldn’t judge the character too harshly.

Here’s my real problem with this paragraph.

Again, I know that this book was never written with publication in mind. Teenage!Merikay probably only intended for very few people to see this. Her Bible teacher, her parents, and maybe a few close friends. She did not expect it to have the wide (ish) audience it has, and she definitely did not expect some young 20 something year old internet reviewer with too many As in her byline to come along 40 some years later and nitpick at all the problems.

That being said…whoever printed this for publication absolutely had all that in mind. (Well, except for me, probably.) Whoever printed this for publication probably published it partly to use passages like these as propaganda. This was published by the publisher with the intent that someone would read this, and ask the question themselves: If Jesus was coming now, would I be ready? If I am, all this could happen to me. But If I’m not, I’ll be brutally tortured in hell until I die a horrific death. Either way, I don’t get to escape horrific torture.

It’s scare tactics like these that give us nightmares. Book!Merikay’s anxiety is our anxiety.

I can read this now, on the other side, and roll my eyes. Even as a teenager being read to in Bible class, I didn’t think I’d have to face Jesus anytime soon, and I was pretty sure the whole Sunday Laws Prophecy was bullshit. But most Adventist children who read this, who are having this read to them in their Bible classes, they’re going to read or hear that and they are going to be scared.

A lot of my classmates probably had nightmares that night.

I don’t think I can fully convey, here, just how traumatizing books like Now! were to us. Even though I no longer shared the Adventist end times beliefs. I still thought that I would meet Jesus… at some point, probably after I died, either of suicide or old age. And that thought scared me shitless.

Again, I am 100% positive this was not Teenage!Merikay’s intention. For all I know, the adult!Merikay would be horrified to know that her book was causing people to panic and have nightmares.

I do not think the fault is with Merikay. I think the fault is with the Adventist publishing house. And them I can’t forgive, because they were grown ass men (or women) who didn’t see using scare tactics as a bad thing. They largely see this as a good thing–and that’s disturbing.

 

 

 

 

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